Without climate-smart development: 100 million additional people in poverty by 2030

Published: 9 November 2015

Climate change is already preventing people from escaping poverty and without climate-smart development, together with emissions-reductions efforts, there could be more than 100 million additional people in poverty by 2030, according to a new World Bank Group report, to which Deltares and the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) have contributed.

“Shock Waves: Managing the Impact of Climate Change on Poverty”

The report, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, finds that poor people are already at high risk from climate-related shocks, including crop failures from reduced rainfall, spikes in food prices after extreme weather events, and increased incidence of diseases after heat waves and floods. Deltares (expert Hessel Winsemius) was responsible for estimating whether relatively poor people in developing nations are disproportionally exposed to floods and droughts. The report concludes shocks could wipe out hard-won gains, leading to irreversible losses, driving people back into poverty, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

climate change map

Strong action is needed

The report, released a month before negotiators gather in Paris for international climate talks, shows how ending poverty and fighting climate change can be more effectively achieved if addressed together. “This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate.”

Floods, droughts and head waves

The report finds that the poorest people are more exposed than the average population to climate-related shocks such as floods, droughts, and heat waves, and they lose much more of their wealth when they are hit. In the 52 countries where data was available, 85 percent of the population live in countries where poor people are more exposed to drought than the average. Poor people are also more exposed to higher temperatures and live in countries where food production is expected to decrease because of climate change. In detail, the contribution of Deltares shows that poor are often overexposed to floods and droughts. For floods, this is particularly the case in urban households as opposed to rural households. In particular, many countries in Africa exhibit this signal, indicating that implementing risk-sensitive land-use and development policies that protect poor people should be a priority in these countries.

Agriculture as the main driver

Agriculture will be the main driver of any increase in poverty, the report finds. Modeling studies suggest that climate change could result in global crop yield losses as large as 5 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2080. Health effects—higher incidence of malaria, diarrhea and stunting—and the labor productivity effects of high temperatures are the next-strongest drivers.

Good development can protect the poor from shocks

In poor countries, support from the international community will be essential to accomplish many of these measures, according to the report. This is particularly true for investments with high upfront costs– such as urban transport or resilient energy infrastructure — that are critical to prevent lock-ins into carbon-intensive patterns. The report also reviews successful policy solutions to show that good development can protect the poor from shocks. It also means taking targeted action to help people cope with climate shocks – such as developing early warning systems and flood protection, and introducing heat-resistant crops.  At the same time, efforts to reduce emissions should accelerate, and be designed to protect the poor.